At first glance, the tendency to spend most of one's day using a smartphone, tablet and/or watching television is nothing more than a perk of 21st century life. On the contrary, studies show a sharp rise in sub-optimal mental, emotional and even physical health as a result. In this article, I offer a few tips on how best to reap the benefits of technology without negatively impacting your health in the process.
Used wisely, technology can make our lives easier and, therefore, more fun. There is, however, a fine line between utility and excessive dependence. Depression, impaired sleep, obesity and insulin resistance are just a few conditions linked with increased exposure to the dizzying array of devices available to us today.
The good news is that consistent small changes and simple habits yield reassuringly positive results. Depending on the level of commitment that appeals to you, any - or a mix - of the following may be helpful:
An hour - or two: consider spending an hour a day away from your phone. Increase this period gradually and note how you feel. Blue light emitted from screens (including - but not limited to - computer screens, tablets, smartphones and television) is known to deplete melatonin (the regulatory hormone of sleep and wakefulness). Alternatively, try limiting exposure to these at least two hours before bed.
A day: choose one day (every week) on which to completely resist the urge to check your phone, watch television or use a computer.
A week: book a week's holiday to a destination with no Wi-Fi and/or television.
30 days: consider a "break-up". Explained by Catherine Price in How To Break Up With Your Phone, it involves "giving yourself the space, freedom and tools necessary to create a long-term relationship" with your phone. You will find that a lot of its principles are applicable to other forms of technology, too.
Have you ever tried to minimise your use of technology to better your health? What worked best for you?